Information Architecture — IA

Where did IA come from?

As the format of information evolves in this day and age where the internet is in the palm of your hands, we continue to come up with new and better ways to organize it. Richard Saul Wurman, best known today for being one of the creators of the (TED) conferences, coined the term “information architecture” at an American Institute of Architects (AIA) conference in 1976.

What is Information Architecture?

Information architecture is about helping people understand their surroundings and find what they’re looking for, in the real world as well as online.”

It is commonly spoken about in connection with web design, wireframes, labels, and taxonomies.

In other words, IA is the practice of deciding how to arrange the parts of something to be understandable. Because of designers that focus on information architecture, this allows users to focus on whatever task is at hand. For example, browsing an online store for products.

Information architecture is everywhere. In the websites we use, the apps and software we download (both on phones and on computers), the printed materials we encounter such as magazines and books, and even the physical places we spend time in like coffee shops, grocery stores, and the places where you buy clothes.

Good information architecture helps people to understand their surroundings and find what they’re looking for — in the real world as well as online.

When a user begins separating content and dividing it into categories like we did in our cord sorting exercise, we are practicing information architecture. When a designer sketches an app to help users understand where they are on a site, this is also practicing information architecture.

8 Principles to Information Architecture:

Dan Brown the founder/principal at EightShapes, LLC. has laid out eight principles of IA that are a great place to start when learning what it takes to create solid content architecture for a project.

  1. The principle of objects — Treat content as a living, breathing thing, with a lifecycle, behaviors and attributes.
  2. The principle of choices — Create pages that offer meaningful choices to users, keeping the range of choices available focused on a particular task.
  3. The principle of disclosure — Show only enough information to help people understand what kinds of information they’ll find as they dig deeper.
  4. The principle of exemplars — Describe the contents of categories by showing examples of the contents.
  5. The principle of front doors — Assume at least half of the website’s visitors will come through some page other than the home page.
  6. The principle of multiple classification — Offer users several different classification schemes to browse the site’s content.
  7. The principle of focused navigation — Don’t mix apples and oranges in your navigation scheme.
  8. The principle of growth — Assume the content you have today is a small fraction of the content you will have tomorrow.

Sources:

https://www.asis.org/Bulletin/Aug-10/AugSep10_Brown.pdf

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